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Archive for July, 2009

Alien

When I first heard of FOX’s plans to resurrect the “Alien” franchise, I would have to admit that I was pretty dubious.  I mean, for starters, they’re FOX.  Secondly, though, the idea of a remake or prequel to “Alien” just seems to be needless, let’s face it, the whole thing didn’t work out all that great for the “Alien vs. Predator” movies.

However, this story in Variety goes a long way toward restoring some of my faith in the project.  Word on the street is now that not only is Ridley Scott on board as a producer, but he’s actually going to direct the film.  Less exciting, but also promising is the fact that Jon Speights is going to pen the screenplay.

Scott return as a director (for the first time since the original) in the series is promising to me because of the fact that regardless of the talent behind the other three films, and the mixed results, that none of the sequels came close to nailing the tone and pitch perfect execution of the original.  Don’t get me wrong, there were things to enjoy about all four films, but for my money, Ridley’s original is just head and shoulders above the others.  I can’t believe I’m about to write this, but I might actually be excited for this movie now!

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I’m generally a drinker of the haterade when it comes to the animated movies.   I don’t really watch the Pixar stuff, I just don’t get it, and you can just forget about the rest of them.  However, when the director is Wes Anderson and the talent involved is the likes of George Clooney, Jason Schwartzman, and Bill Murray?   Well, let’s just say that’s a combination that should produce some interesting and decidedly unique results.  Now, looking at the trailer for “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” I can understand why the response has been so overwhelmingly positive so far.   It looks to be everything that you would expect from an animated Wes Anderson movie.   As far as I am concerned, though, the jury is still out on whether that will be a good thing or just a weird one.  But my thoughts coming in remain my thoughts coming out.   Unique.

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Apologies, as I’m shamefully late to get this up.  Sadly, tragedy has continued to plague the boxing world as two-time champion Vernon “The Viper” Forrest was shot to death in Atlanta over the weekend.  The reports say that he was shot in the back after what appears to have been an attempted robbery.  He was 38 years old and will be survived by his son, Vernon Jr.

Forrest is perhaps best known for his two victories over future hall-of-famer “Sugar” Shane Mosley or his second climb to the title in 2007, and again by defeating Los Angeles’ Sergio Mora in 2008.  However, this doesn’t tell the whole story, as Vernon’s life was lived just as richly outside the ring as it was inside of it.  He was known for his charitably and kindness to all of those whom he met.  He will be missed.

Below you’ll find Vernon as I’ll probably remember him, in his physical prime and at the pinnacle of his career after he first defeated Mosley to capture the Welterweight title of the world.

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If this isn’t one of the funnier things you’ve seen today, then I just don’t know what to tell you.  Last night William Shatner went on Conan and performed a reading of Sarah Palin’s resignation speech– naturally, it’s pretty damn funny.  And it actually got my mind wandering on what it would be like if William Shatner had been the Governor of Alaska instead of Sarah Palin, which was also amusing for me.  You can watch the video for yourself below and let your mind run wild!

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Amador

If you head over to The Guardian you will find a great little series of photos depicting the work from artist Andres Amador.  Amador, who is based out of San Francisco, does a lot of landscape art or earthscape art.  For the purpose of The Guardian photo spread this translates into massive and intricate designs in the sand.  Follow the link over and take a look at them for yourself.

As you can probably see from the pictures, the scale of Amador’s work is pretty massive, but is also pretty beautiful.  I think my favorite part about the work is how through the use of nature as his canvas he is able to create such complex pieces of art that so perfectly capture the essence and spirit of life in California (of course, leave it to a British publication to introduce it to me).  I also think there’s something heartbreakingly beautiful in the fact that the work is so completely temporary, destined to be washed away and wiped clean by the elements themselves.  It’s the very definition of art for art’s sake, both gorgeous and fleeting.

After doing a little digging (read: typing the name into Google and clicking on the top result) I found Andres Amador’s official website. There you can see more examples of his earthscape art and check out some of his more traditional work, as well as purchase some of his work and keep up with news about the artist.  You should head on over and take a further look for yourself, it’s pretty cool stuff.

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The juiciest news of the day is probably that Michael Vick has been granted a conditional reinstatement by the NFL, with the possibility to receive a full reinstatement by week six of the upcoming 2009-2010 season.  So despite engaging in the most infamous dog fighting this side of Amores Perros it would appear that Mike Vick is going to be wearing some kind of football jersey by October.

Now, I don’t have a crystal ball (shocking, I know), but I would wager that there is going to be some knee-jerking over this news.  Personally, I’m not too interested in hearing any cries of “he did a terrible thing, he should never play football again!” as I’m of the impression that spending time in prison and giving up essentially the prime of your career is punishment enough.  Besides, as the article tells us, since his arrest Vick has been under the tutelage of Tony Dungy.  Tony Dungy!  If Dungy can win a Super Bowl than I would certainly assume that he has what it takes to rehabilitate and redeem the soul of man!  Kidding aside though, I think that Vick has served his time and it’s perfectly fair that he’s going to be bouncing back to the old No Fun League.

So now that it’s been determined that he’s going to be allowed to play, and it’s all but determined that some team will want to sign him, the question will be as to whether or not Vick can be any kind of effective after his layoff.  I think we have learned from the great Mike Tyson experience that such an intense break can lead to a pretty dramatic drop off in the skill set of an athlete, and for a guy who many people thought thought was a bit iffy as a quarterback to begin with, things could potentially get ugly out there.  However, the point is that Michael Vick at least deserves this chance to make a go of it.

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Lungs

The Florence & the Machine (aka Florence + the Machine, aka Florence Welch and company) moniker already produced one very solid EP this year in the form of A Lot of Love.  A Lot of Blood.  But what’s a girl and her machine to do for an encore?  Well, the hope is that they’ll release an equally solid LP.  This is precisely what Welch and her band have aspired to do on Lungs, their full length-debut.  The album has already achieved commercial success in the UK as it has raced out to number two on the sales charts (thwarted only by Michael Jackson and his postmortem sales resurgence), something that’s made all the more notable by the fact that the it’s one of those rare instances where commercial success is being granted to something that’s actually pretty good.

Of the four tracks on the EP (not counting remixes), three of them appear on Lungs; those three being “Dog Days Are Over”, “Kiss With a Fist” and “You’ve Got the Love”.   The songs essentially serve as a bookend to the album, with “Dog Days” opening things in proper fashion and “You’ve Got the Love” as the closer.  I would normally be a little disappointed that three tracks we’ve already heard are taking up space that could be occupied by new material, but any such complaints are largely muted by the fact that all three songs somehow remain so enjoyable.  The first two singles “Dog Days Are Over” and “Kiss With a Fist”, in particular, really seem to give the first half of the album a little extra lift.

Of the new material, things are lead off by “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)”, which is the third single from Welch and company.  The song is pretty intriguing in the way that it’s different from anything we heard on the EP, some of the weight seems lifted from Welch’s shoulders on more seems placed onto “the machine” (read: production and the band).  I don’t mean to suggest that her voice is any less striking or present on this track, but things are certainly ratcheted up on the production side of the table. The song seems to have something akin to the late 1980’s styled pop-music production, not really pop music outright, but maybe pop-music with a bite.

There’s a brooding darkness on the first couple tracks that seems always to be present in Welch’s music.  What’s particularly impressive is the way Welch seems to be able to take this darkness and weave it into her music in way that enables her to take tired concepts, i.e. romance and heartbreak, and breathe some new life into them.  For example, on “Howl” she takes a song about young lovers and puts it through the lens of a werewolf descending upon its prey as she sings; “Screaming in the dark, I howl when we’re apart, drag my teeth across your chest to taste your beating heart.”  Meanwhile, she uses that same deft but dark touch to give an almost whimsical and Dickensian feel to “My Boy Builds Coffins”.  The song is pretty bare bones from a musical standpoint, the most prominent backing being a smattering of drums, but it features what has to be one of my favorite lyrics of the year:

“My boy builds coffins, he makes them all day / It’s not just for work and it isn’t for play / He made one for himself, one for me too / One of these days he’ll make one for you.”

It’s the kind of song that’s so dark that it just has to be endearingly depressing and it’s only made more lovable by the fact that it actually has some keen observations to make at the same time.

Another impressing aspect of Lungs is the fact that Florence proves not to just be a one trick pony.  One moment she’ll be wowing you with a bluesy and unassuming track like “Girl With One Eye” (which is just begging to end up on a soundtrack somewhere) and the next she’ll pull the carpet out from under you with an epic song like “Cosmic Love”, which is a track that’s soaring in every sense of the word.  Both songs are very strong, in fact they’re two of the best ones on the album, but it’s striking that they can both be good in such different ways.  Sure there are some clunkers mixed in here or there, “Blinding” and “Hurricane Drunk” are probably the worst offenders of the bunch, but that’s to be expected on a debut.  And even on such lesser tracks, you at least get the sense that Welch is at least trying to do something unconventional.  For example, on the aforementioned “Hurricane Drunk” you can appreciate that Welch is applying a back-to-nature aesthetic to the obligatory breakup song, she may not fully pull it off, but at least she is flailing with style.

So the question is, did Lungs live up to the standard that was set by A Lot of Love.  A Lot of Blood?  I would have to answer that it did.  There are ten new tracks (more if you purchase the iTunes bonus track or the deluxe version) that for the most part are both original and enjoyable.  Even when Lungs drags, for the most part it only does so because the songs are merely adequate and not excellent.  Meanwhile, everything that I liked about the EP is present here (probably because most of the EP is present here) and the album improved on some of the things that I didn’t.  While Welch’s voice is still the clear driving force behind every single track, I was impressed by much of the production on the album and with the work of her band, particularly on “Girl With One Eye” and “Rabbit Heart”.  I suppose that you could say that the Machine was a little more well-oiled this time around.  That being said, it’s still Florence’s show, and she’ll go as far as that powerful voice will take her.  So far, so good.

SCORE: 3.7 out of 5.0

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